If you’ve never had a bearded dragon before, now’s the best time to learn as much as you can about the reptile before purchasing it. One of the first aspects to learn is the animal’s diet; what it should eat, how much, how often, etc.
As you will soon see, there’s a fine line between feeding your dragon properly and overfeeding or underfeeding it, both of which come with different health problems. So, let’s start with the beginning.
Average Weight for Bearded Dragon
The average weight for a bearded dragon revolves around 450-500 grams. We’re talking about an adult dragon, 18 months of age or older. This is also the average weight for a male, but females fall lower on the spectrum, typically below 400 grams.
Here’s a chart of the different stages of a bearded dragon’s life with the respective body weight for each phase:
|Bearded Dragon Age||Bearded Dragon Weight|
|0-2 months||10-25 grams|
|3-4 months||50-100 grams|
|4-6 months||100-180 grams|
|6-8 months||180-300 grams|
|8-10 months||300-400 grams|
|10-12 months||400-450 grams|
|12-14 months||400-440 grams|
|14-16 months||440-460 grams|
|16-18 months||460-500+ grams|
This chart exemplifies the standard weight gain for a bearded dragon regardless of sex, so these values can vary depending on a variety of factors. Some dragons can reach 650 grams or more, especially larger males, while others remain below the 500-gram mark. It all depends on your dragon’s profile, diet, genetic background, etc.
Signs of Overweighted Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons can get overweight with ease, primarily because they have no self-control when it comes to eating. As juveniles, they eat several times per day and require one meal per day or every other day as adults. The signs suggesting that your bearded dragon is overweight include:
- Fat deposits – These should be visible right away, informing you that your dragon’s diet is more calorie-rich than it should be. Bearded dragons store fat in their legs, tail, bellies, and under the chin, so check those areas first. In case of visible fat deposits, tweak the dragon’s diet to force the body to consume them.
- Difficulty moving – Bearded dragons should be fairly agile, despite their short legs. It’s not normal for them to move slow and drag their bellies on the ground. If that’s the case, your dragon may be overweight. You will also notice that your dragon isn’t climbing as often as it used to. When it does, it’s always with great effort.
- Lethargy – This isn’t real lethargy, but rather the dragon preferring not to move as often. The reptile may still be alert and healthy-looking, it’s just that it prefers to rest more. This is because the extra weight makes moving more strenuous, eventually discouraging the dragon from moving completely.
This being said, you should always rely on the presence of fat deposits to diagnose your dragon’s health state. The following 2 points are only indicators of a weight problem if fat deposits are present. If not, you should look for other explanations for your reptile’s lethargy and difficult movement.
Signs of Underweighted Bearded Dragon
An underweight dragon is at more serious health risks than an overweight one. The clearest sign of an underweight problem is the dragon’s skinny appearance. You shouldn’t be able to see your dragon’s ribs and bones through the skin. If you do, your dragon is already severely underweight.
Also, look for signs of saggy skin and lack of movement, as underfed dragons have very little energy to spend. However, as I’ve already mentioned, being underweight isn’t the real problem. The real problem is nutrient deficiency. If your dragon isn’t getting sufficient food, it will experience nutrient deficiency first and only after the signs of malnutrition will begin to appear.
The problem is that nutrient deficiency is often deadly, because bearded dragons are prone to calcium deficiency. Severe calcium deficiency due to insufficient food or improper nutrition as a whole can degenerate into Metabolic Bone Disease which is lethal in advanced phases.
Weighing Your Bearded Dragon
You ideally want to weigh your bearded dragon at different phases of its life to make sure it’s growing properly. You only need a kitchen scale for that, so long as you remember that some kitchen scales are capped at 500 grams. Get one that goes beyond that.
When preparing to weigh your bearded dragon for the first time, remember the following tips:
- Baby and juvenile dragons are jumpier and more energetic; handle them with care to prevent them from escaping
- Don’t hold your dragon’s tail during the handling, as the animal can freak out and lose it in the process
- Use a tall container when weighing the dragon to prevent the reptile from running; most dragons take time to get used to the weighing process
You want to weigh your dragon more often when young because that’s when they grow faster. The dragon’s growth rate drops as the reptile matures, around 18 months of age.
Keeping Your Bearded Dragon in Shape
The idea is to keep your dragon in shape so you won’t have to deal with any weight-related issues. To do that, consider the following tips:
Adjust the Meal Size and Frequency
First, you need to adapt to your dragon’s nutritional requirements. Baby and juvenile dragons eat far more often than the adults. A typical juvenile dragon may require 2-3 meals per day, while adults only eat once per day. As the dragon ages beyond the 18-month mark, it may even eat once every 2 days. Learn your dragon’s physiological needs and adjust the meal plan based on that.
Only feed your dragon small portions each time, sufficient for the animal to consume with excitement. Once its eating excitement drops, you know the reptile has had its full. As a general idea, bearded dragons eat around 3-4 food items in one sitting whether that’s insects or fruit pieces.
Meal size and frequency matters greatly in this sense.
Adjust the Nutrient Intake
It’s also critical to learn your dragon’s nutritional requirements. Bearded dragons need more animal protein and fats when young and more fruits, veggies, and greens as they grow old. To consider some general values, the diet of baby and juvenile dragons consists of 80% insects and 20% fruits and veggies. The diet of a typical adult bearded dragon consists of 30% insects and 70% fruits and veggies.
You should adapt to your dragon’s nutritional requirements and tweak its diet as it grows older. Also, keep in mind that insects and fruits aren’t sufficient. Bearded dragons also require commercial food, nutritionally optimized for them. Calcium and D3 supplementation are also necessary to prevent MBD and general calcium deficiency. So, consider gut-loading and dusting your feeder insects before serving them to your lizard.
I recommend setting up an insect feeder tank to provide you with sufficient high-quality food daily.
You should always watch your dragon’s food fiber content. These are generally present in fruits and veggies, which adult dragons need to eat plenty of. Fibers are great for preventing constipation and keeping the lizard’s digestive system in good condition.
Promote Physical Activity
Bearded dragons need to remain physically active to stay in good shape. Craft a natural-looking layout for them, involving hiding and climbing areas that your dragons can explore. Also, make sure that your bearded dragons have sufficient moving space.
You don’t want to keep your dragon in a small and claustrophobic setup. This will not only stress the animal, but limit its physical activity as well. The ideal tank size for an adult bearded dragon revolves around 55-75 gallons, depending on the reptile’s size and activity level. I recommend going for a 75-gallon one for the extra space.
This allows you to vary your dragon’s layout the way you want it and according to your reptile’s needs.
Finally, this is a pet you have here, so, feel free to engage in fun activities together once in a while. These include:
- Going for a walk – Use a leash to keep your dragon secure and go for a walk around the neighborhood.
- Going for a swim – You can pour some water in a container with a large surface area. Not much, just enough to touch the dragon’s belly. This is an especially fun activity in sunny and hot days when dragons could use some bathing. Make sure that the water is dechlorinated and around 80 F.
- Ball time – A ping-pong ball is often exactly what your dragon needs for some variation and physical activity. Don’t expect to teach your bearded dragon to fetch anytime soon, though.
- Handling – Sometimes, even handling your bearded dragon can help your reptile workout a bit. Just learn the difference between handling a baby vs. an adult dragon. They will vary in size and weight significantly. You don’t need to do anything special during these handling sessions. Just hold your dragon gently and allow it to move along your arm as it pleases. Don’t hold your reptile pet if it squirms or seems reluctant to let you touch it. That means that the dragon may prefer solitude for the time being, needs more time to know you better, or maybe there’s something bothering it.
Monitor Your Bearded Dragon
You should always weigh and assess your bearded dragon’s health status frequently. Keep track of the reptile’s overall physical and mental health, assess its activity level, and check its overall behavior. By doing so, you will learn the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy specimen which often gives you the upper hand in case your reptile in unwell.
Timely measures in case of sickness, nutrient deficiency, and other health-related problems are critical for avoiding more severe situations.
You rarely get to see overweight or underweight bearded dragons in the wild. That’s because the dragon is always in top shape from all the roaming around and hunting for food. Food availability is also an important factor that keeps dragons in shape; it’s unlikely for a bearded dragon to find sufficient food to allow it to become overweight.
Try to understand your reptile’s metabolic and nutritional requirements and stick to what fits their profile best.